Sunday, 9 March 2014

Iditarod 2014 Ceremonial Start - Bet

Well Howdy Ho Everybodies, it's time for the blog about the Ceremonial Start!

If you are like me and have never been to the Ceremonial Start and have only seen it on the tv or the interwebs or from a very slow one picture at a time creaky Cam positioned in a silly spot on the street in Anchorage... whooo boy are you missing a lot of details there!

I was a tad bit overwhelmed by the whole complexity of the getting the Ceremonial Start ready and where it was and what it was and all that stuff... and things.

First of all, the Ceremonial Start starts right in the middle of downtown Anchorage, which is a biggie big city to begin with.  Ok, it's not as biggie big as some really biggie big cities, but it's pretty Hugey Huge and 4th avenue is really long too.

So around midnight the night before, they totally close down 4th avenue and streets along the side of it because that's where the dog trucks will park and where the Ceremonial start takes place.  Then all of the workers get busy, busy, busy, and start dumping a WHOLE bunch of snow on the streets!

I imagine that when it's really cold and snowy, this doesn't take long, but it's pretty warm here and there's hardly any real snow at all so I have no idea where they trucked all this snow from, but it was pretty and clean when they dumped it out initially... not so much after the start though.

Then they get big machines to spread the snow all down 4th Avenue and the side streets all the way to where the mushers go to the end of the Ceremonial start at Campbell Airstrip.

So when they are done you are like "wow, looky!  It snowed all pretty right down this road!"

Isn't that crazy!!!?!

Ok, then all of the dog trucks come very, very early in the morning to park and they all have their assigned spots based on their starting bib numbers.

The Mushers with low bib numbers park way way far away from the start line.  I know, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, except it does.

So, the low bib number dog trucks are at the far end away from the start line.  The dog teams go up 4th avenue to start off, and then their dog truck drivers can leave without causing all sorts of wackiness and chaos because they are at the end!  See, that makes sense!

So, the Musher and crew parked their truck early and then sought out some tasty, tasty breakfast while the minions began gathering and doing their Howdy Ho meeting fans and explaining stuffs and things at the dog truck.

I also sent the Minions out to fetch me some coffee.

So remember when I told you that the Musher may choose different dogs to run on the race than she chose to be in the Ceremonial Start?  Yep, that's because she uses the Ceremonial Start as a training day for her Rookies and all dogs actually.

She wants them to get use to large crowds of people, a lot of comings and goings, loud noises, cheering, strange people handling them, and the Ceremonial start also goes through a tunnel and over a bridge, so it's a great way to get the young Pretty Curly Tails use to new and unique sights and sounds, and also for the Musher to gauge how well they are handling the pressure.

So here is her list of Pretty Curly Tails for the Ceremonial Start:

There's only 12 dogs in a team at the Ceremonial Start.

On top of only being 12 dogs, the team pulls the Iditarider, and North Wapiti's Iditarider is the adorable Rita Skipper again (she was also our 2012 Iditarider)

Who came armed with a cushion (that bag is NOT comfy peoples) and her bags of candy.  Rita filled Musher autographed dog booties with tasty candies and threw them at peoples along the route... because we're awesome like that.

So, in the beginning there's all sorts of peoples walking around the areas visiting the dog trucks and meeting and greeting and taking of the pictures and stuffs and things.

All of the Pretty Curly Tails get out of the truck for the meet and greet and stretch their legs and get some air and perhaps a snack to eat, and then they get put back in their boxes where they nap and hang out, maybe read a book or whatever because they're pretty laid back Pretty Curly Tails even in a stressful situation (thanks to my expert training).

When it's time for the first teams to start to the Starting line, the Iditarod Security peoples do a sweep and boots everybodies that doesn't have an official handler armband out of the area.  Peoples are still pretty close to the action, but you can't be in the streets after a certain period or you'll get tossed behind the fence... well, not physically tossed, just escorted.

Don't throw me out, I'm official!!!

Then the Iditarod officials come by to scan the chips on the dogs to make sure all of the dogs are the official vet checked dogs.

Then the mushers and handlers escort the teams to the starting line up 4th Avenue.  Since we were on a side street, it was pretty calm in our neck of the woods.  I wouldn't want to be parked on the main street because it gets very busy and loud there.

There goes Newton to the start with his team
The Mushers start every 2 minutes, then there's additional breaks between groups of mushers for the commercials.  That way, everybodies gets to be on the tv starting.  So while you are sitting through an annoying commercial, we're all just hanging out, sipping hot latte and waiting for the announcer to come back on and say the next musher's name.

So, at our specified time, the Musher and Richard spring into action to get the Pretty Curly Tails ready for the Ceremonial start.

They are taken out of their boxes, get their harnesses, booties and fashionable scarves put on:

The sled bag is readied, and for the Ceremonial Start, there is a tag sled (to slow down the team for the Ceremonial start) which is a normal sled hooked to the back of the Musher's sled.

Some of the dogs wore coats to promote the Alaska Immunization program

Here I am earlier trying to assist the Musher and Richard in preparing the sleds

Once the sleds are ready (please note that the tag sled is tied off onto the truck), the gangline is stretched out

The ITC Handlers arrive and are instructed on the care of handling of the Pretty Curly Tails.  The instructions are as follows:

1.) NO RUNNING.  The Pretty Curly Tails are walked at all times.  Running means feet all over the place and Pretty Curly Tails getting stepped on... no running.

2.) Slip a leash through the gangline and hold on to both ends to guide the Pretty Curly Tails toward the chute.  When the Musher signals, you let go of the end that doesn't have the clasp to release your hold on the gangline.

Pretty simple peoples.

The Pretty Curly Tails are led to their spots on the ganglines and hooked up.

Rita is plooped into the Musher's sled with her pillow and bag of candies

When the Musher is ready, the team is ready, and the ITC is ready, it's time to walk toward the starting chute.

Then the Musher's wait their turn to get to the start, and at each waiting point, there's either a camera for an interview, or a reporter asking questions or ITC officials to make sure everything is hunky dory and good to go.

Then after the interview is over and the commercials are over and the broadcast is back and it's your time to go, the announcer does his thing (and please note, this is the Musher's 11th Iditarod, not the 10th), and then they get to go!

The Pretty Curly Tails fly down the chute at the start to the cheering of the crowds.

Then it's off through the city and the cheering crowds to Campbell Airstrip

Where your dog truck meets you, and you unhitch the Pretty Sled Dogs and let them lounge for a bit

You put your sled away and get ready for the big Restart the next day

I'm sure when the Musher writes about it, she'll correct and fill in stuffs and things I messed up... because it was my first time there and it was all very exciting.

- Bet


pat - back in MN said...

Thanks, Bet. That was an excellent recap of a wonderful day in Anchorage. The PCTs were the PRETTIEST of all the dogs there - I mean of all the dogs who were in harness.

Jack & Moo said...

woo-hoo, how excitings! thanks fur the un-depth peek, Bet. We sure are glasd woo are there to do the reporting, as the Curly tails already have enought fo do.

~Jack & Moo